Quiet, con­sid­er­ate young boy is fine just the way he is

The Covington News - - Religion -

Ques­tion: We have a 9-yearold boy who is quiet, care­ful, thought­ful and very, very shy. Does that mean he is not “all boy”? Should we be try­ing to change him, to make him more as­sertive and ag­gres­sive?

Dob­son: The won­der­ful thing about the way hu­man be­ings are de­signed is their mar­velous vari­abil­ity and com­plex­ity. We are all dif­fer­ent and unique. My pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sions of ag­gres­sive, risk­tak­ing boys rep­re­sent an ef­fort to char­ac­ter­ize young males, show­ing what is typ­i­cal and how they are dif­fer­ent from their sis­ters. How­ever, they also dif­fer from one an­other on a thou­sand traits.

I re­mem­ber tak­ing my 10year-old son and his friend on a ski­ing trip one day. As we rode the gon­dola to the top of the moun­tain, I pre­pared to take a pic­ture of the two boys with the beau­ti­ful land­scape vis­i­ble be­hind them. Ryan, my son, was smil­ing and clown­ing for the cam­era, while Ricky was just sit­ting qui­etly. Ryan then asked Ricky to wave and goof off like he was do­ing. Ricky replied solemnly, “I’m not that kind of per­son.” It was true. The two boys were at op­po­site ends of the con­tin­uum in their per­son­al­i­ties. I still have that pic­ture of the two kids — one go­ing crazy and the other ap­pear­ing bored half to death. Each of them was “all boy.”

Your son is cer­tainly not alone in his char­ac­ter­is­tic shy­ness. Ac­cord­ing to the New York Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Study, ap­prox­i­mately 15 per­cent of ba­bies are some­what quiet and pas­sive in the nurs­ery. That fea­ture of their tem­per­a­ments tends to be per­sis­tent through­out child­hood and be­yond. They may be very spon­ta­neous or funny when they are com­fort­able at home. When they are with strangers, how­ever, their tongues are thrust into their cheeks and they don’t know what to say. Some kids are like this be­cause they have been hurt or re­jected in the past. The more likely ex­pla­na­tion is that they were born that way. Some par­ents are em­bar­rassed by the in­tro­ver­sion of their chil­dren and try to change them. It is a fool’s er­rand. No amount of goad­ing or push­ing by their par­ents will make them out­go­ing, flam­boy­ant and con­fi­dent.

My ad­vice to you is to go with the flow. Ac­cept your child just the way he is made. Then look for those spe­cial qual­i­ties that give your boy in­di­vid­u­al­ity and po­ten­tial. Nur­ture him. Cul­ti­vate him. And then give him time to de­velop into his own unique per­son­al­ity like no other hu­man be­ing on Earth.

Ques­tion: My wife and I have a strong-willed child who is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to han­dle. I hon­estly be­lieve we are do­ing our job about as well as any par­ents would do un­der the cir­cum­stances, yet she still breaks the rules and chal­lenges our author­ity. I guess I need some en­cour­age­ment. First, tell me if an es­pe­cially strong-willed kid can be made to smile and give and work and co­op­er­ate. If so, how is that ac­com­plished? And sec­ond, what is my daugh­ter’s fu­ture? I see trou­ble ahead, but don’t know if that gloomy fore­cast is jus­ti­fied.

Dob­son: There is no ques­tion about it; an es­pe­cially will­ful child such as yours can be dif­fi­cult to man­age even when her par­ents han­dle her with great skill and ded­i­ca­tion. It may take sev­eral years to bring her to a point of rel­a­tive obe­di­ence and co­op­er­a­tion within the fam­ily unit, but it will hap­pen. While this train­ing pro­gram is in progress, it is im­por­tant not to panic. Don’t try to com­plete the trans­for­ma­tion overnight.

Treat your child with sin­cere love and dig­nity, but re­quire her to fol­low your lead­er­ship. Choose care­fully the mat­ters which are wor­thy of con­fronta­tion; then ac­cept her chal­lenge on those is­sues and win de­ci­sively.

Re­ward ev­ery pos­i­tive, co­op­er­a­tive ges­ture she makes by of­fer­ing your at­ten­tion, af­fec­tion and ver­bal praise. Then take two as­pirin and call me in the morn­ing.

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